"How Much Does Marketing Cost?"

Let's talk about branding on a budget. (No it does not cost $1.)

Many marketing writers and companies are telling you what you should be doing to promote your brand. It’s often very difficult to determine which sources are offering good advice or are trying to sell you on something. Major challenges for marketers include: deciding which media to publish on, determining how often you should produce content, figuring out how much you should be spending, assessing whether or not you need to hire within your department or if you should outsource. The sad, but true fact is: Because there are so many tools available, the perceived value of the marketing industry as a whole has dropped.

I want to explore a topic that I get questions about all the time: How much does marketing cost?

Asking how much marketing costs is like asking how much a house costs. Do you want a one-bedroom apartment downtown? A sprawling mansion in a gated community?  Basic shelter on an island? Would you like your house to be two stories? Can you afford the pool out back? Do you want your house to be just like everyone else's or do you want it to attract attention for its design and uniqueness?

Of course, there are price ranges for various services in various markets, and there are varying levels of companies or consultants offering those services. A large agency with decades of experience executing strategic campaigns is going to be more expensive than a freelance college grad who knows her way around Photoshop.

It all comes down to a very basic principle: You get what you pay for.

If you are looking to seriously take your business into a new market or bullishly going after a competitor or have ambitions to create great work with the intent of converting customers at scale, there’s no getting around the fact that you must commit extensive resources to marketing. It’s an investment in securing your growth.

Many business owners often want to improve sales overnight or promote a product everywhere imaginable, but only at a discounted price. Many know that they should be “doing marketing” and if they have to do it, they might as well do it as cheaply as they can. They see it as fluff, even if they won’t admit it.

But that's the problem. Marketing is not an expense. Marketing is not overhead. Marketing is an investment in sales growth. The more successful you want your company to be, the more time and money you have to spend on building and promoting a polished, engaging brand. It’s that simple.

If this feels like a rant, that’s because it is. We, as a business community, must get over the fact that just because marketing tools are everywhere, they should all cost $5.

However, just because the sky is the limit, doesn't mean you have to go all or nothing.

When it comes to pricing, it’s about setting expectations and being realistic about what you can achieve within a constrained budget. Everyone has budgets and limitations. That's where the creativity comes into play. If you're a mid- to large-sized company or organization, you should be investing in and staying up to date with the current marketing landscape. And you can’t just coast on what’s been working for the last 10 or even five years. Times have changed. Communication is continuing to evolve at a rapid pace. Can you keep up?

Business owners and marketers: If you are unwilling to see that Facebook and Instagram ads, short-form video, Google ads, podcasts, LinkedIn, etc. are valuable tools today (not the only tools, just valuable ones), then you are living in the past and your business will suffer in the long-term. That's just the harsh truth.

Set goals for yourself. Create a plan that helps you reach those goals step by step. It sounds like common sense, right? It absolutely is. You’d be surprised how radically simple all of this really is once you can break it down into bite-sized chunks.

Let me be clear: There’s nothing wrong with having a low budget. Do what you can with what you have. I’m not asking you to come up with more money or beat it. All having a small budget means is that you'll have to focus your efforts and concentrate on what helps you reach your goals.

Don't get caught up in what we call the “tactic soup,” meaning you just throw everything you think you're supposed to be doing into the mix and hope that all works because you're doing it all.

Do your research. Go where your customers are. Choose one or two places in your customers' buyer journey where you can really make an impact. Spend what you can there. Don’t dilute. If that doesn't work, experiment and try something else that makes sense. Too often, we see marketers jump into a handful of brand new platforms or methods at once, diluting their efforts and rendering them less effective individually and as a whole.

If you can afford to hire help, do so. However, don't think that you have to go with the big agency right off the bat. Try hiring a freelancer to make professional looking graphics for your social channels. Hire a small consultancy to produce your digital content. Specialists can help save you time, which in many cases is more valuable than money. Once you've had some success on a smaller scale, do an annual evaluation to determine how much of a leap you can take. Over time, having a consistent, professional and engaging marketing presence will allow you to gradually snowball into the growth engine your company needs.

Now go forth and make magic.

If you’re interested to learn more or would like to connect with us to discuss where you stand in your marketing efforts, shoot us an email at hello@toucanadvertising.co, leave a comment on social or tweet at us @toucanads.

Toucan is a New Orleans advertising agency.

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